Isabel Adomakoh Young (Juliet) joined the RSC for the 2019 Swan Season (Venice Preserved, The Provoked Wife) on completing her training with the NYT Rep. She appeared in Meatballs (Hampstead) and with the acclaimed cabaret company Pecs Drag Kings. As a writer, her trilogy The Lionboy, co-written with her mum under the pseudonym Zizou Corder, has been published in 36 languages and was adapted for the stage by Complicité. Isabel plays Juliet, Romeo and Juliet , opens the 2021 season on Thursday 17 June.
1. Name one thing has lockdown taught you about you?
That I have stories to tell that will only come out given space and time; being super busy isn’t always the best way of making work.
2 Tell us about your character and how it resonates with you?
I’ve found so much of myself in Juliet, and vice versa. She’s this enthusiastic, curious young woman who is happy and loved, but then begins to realise there’s life outside the castle walls, as it were. The story is about her having the courage to define herself and go after what she feels is right, pursuing authentic connection over social expectations. Ultimately her choices aren’t all sensible, but the passion with which she lives and loves is inspirational, I think. Our director Kimberley Sykes has paired me with Joel MacCormack, who is not only a brilliant actor but also we have this vivid connection which makes the scenes really exciting to play.
3. What does it feel like to be back on stage with an audience?
I won’t know until our first preview on June 17th, but it’s such a thrill being back in a theatre space, especially one as magical as Regent’s Park Open Air, with the trees all around and the sky above. Juliet has a close relationship with the audience – it becomes her confidante, her guide, the one person who never leaves her. I can’t wait to take people on this journey with us, and I’m so grateful that it can be done in a safe way. I’ve missed this!!
4. Do you think digital theatre compensates well enough or is there no substitute for a live audience?
I was really impressed with the calibre and imagination of the work people put on during lockdown. I was lucky enough to do live digital shows with the Gate Theatre, Theatr Clwyd and The Show Must Go Online, and I learned you really can make compelling, touching theatre digitally – even cabarets, which are so rooted in interaction. Lots of companies knew this already though, like Produced Moon whose board I’m on – tech is a vital building block in the interactive work they make. Our lives are ever more digital and it figures that art will reflect that – plus there is an important pressure on theatres to make shows more accessible by building remote engagement into their processes. That said, the oldest forms of theatre are human-to-human storytelling, and that will always be the root. There’s that factoid that goes round about audience heartbeats syncing during a live show… in-person theatre is old magic, and the pandemic has reminded us not to take it for granted.
5. What do you like most about the story?
Shakespeare astounds me every time with how his stories speak to the present moment. Romeo and Juliet is set 11 years after an earthquake, and we’ve been looking at the impact this major catastrophe had on our ‘Verona’. As the world continues to grapple with the pandemic and empathy is so visibly lacking, Romeo and Juliet feels like the perfect lens through which to ask questions about our future, about the impact on those without as much power, and about the decision to see things for what they really are. I’m also really enjoying the fun of it – it’s easy to forget how much brilliant joy and wordplay there is in Romeo and Juliet, it’s not all doom and gloom!
6. What are you working in next?
You’ll have to watch this space (and follow me on twitter) to find out… There’s one exciting thing brewing that I can’t talk about just yet, and another out next year, but I can say I’m very excited for my drag collective Pecs Drag Kings to open a new show at Soho Theatre on August 30th!
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